Farmers and parliament in Switzerland have a close relationship, especially on Tuesday mornings. Parliament members looking for healthy snacks just have to walk out the door for a choice of apples, savoury cheeses, sausages and breads fresh from the farm. Tuesday morning is Farmers’ Market Day at the ‘Bundesplatz’ (parliament square) in Bern, the capital city of Switzerland.
Walter Stettler and his family from Boettigen, canton Bern, sell up to 20 varieties of apples from their own orchards. On 2.5 hectares (6.25 acres) they grow many of the older variety of apples no longer available in most grocery stores – such as my favorite, the Cox Orange. Mrs. Stettler told me they are beginning to replace many of the old tall trees with the smaller newer varieties. The old varieties don’t produce as well, ‘si nid so gaebig'(aren’t as convenient), she says in the broad dialect of the region of Bern.
Stettler’s don’t just sell apples. Eggs, walnuts, squash, honey and apple juice all come from the farm. Other stands offer fresh vegetables – Chinese cabbage, corn salad, celeriac, beets, potatoes, carrots and some imported produce. – And two stands have fresh carrots, complete with the green foliage, straight from the patch! They were grown under cover, but not in the greenhouse. Special winter varieties?
Rebekka, a young woman at the Alphuesli stand, offers us a piece of Alp Cheese. She comes all the way from Arosa, canton Graubuenden, some hours drive away. The cheese was wonderful and I bought a large slice for those at home, along with a Birnbrot – a dried pear loaf that is a specialty of the Graubuenden. The Alphuesli supports small farmers and bakeries that need the extra help. Along with the cheese and Birnbrot they sell the famous dried Buendner meat, that sliced paper thin is a delicacy; and the Buendner walnut tart.
It was a cold damp day for market. The stands were wrapped in plastic and their owners in warm wraps. But that didn’t stop manty customers from shopping for fresh local produce straight from the farm.
My next farmer’s market will be quite different! The tomatoes will be hot from the sun, and on old burlap bags on the ground, watched carefully by dark women in colorful dresses. I’ll have to be careful about parasites, washing everything with bleach if I don’t intend to cook it well. And I will love it – the noise, the colors, the bright warmth of it all.
We fly Thursday morning, landing in Lusaka on Friday noon. Our friends are looking forward to seeing us, and we them. And oh, how I look forward to seeing the sun! It’s been ten days since the last sun here…